In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus told a story about a man who hired some men to work in his vineyard. The usual workday at that time was from 6am to 6pm. The man went out early in the morning – probably around 5am – and hired some men after agreeing on their wages. He still needed more workers, so he went out again at 9am, at noon, at 3pm, and finally at 5pm, promising each of those groups a "fair wage". This story challenges our thinking about money and fairness. Today, let's read about what happened when it came time to pay these workers:
“[T]he owner told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with those who were hired last and ending with those who were hired first.’ The men who had begun to work at five o'clock were paid a silver coin each. So when the men who were the first to be hired came to be paid, they thought they would get more; but they too were given a silver coin each. They took their money and started grumbling against the employer. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘while we put up with a whole day's work in the hot sun—yet you paid them the same as you paid us!’ ‘Listen, friend,’ the owner answered one of them, ‘I have not cheated you. After all, you agreed to do a day's work for one silver coin. Now take your pay and go home. I want to give this man who was hired last as much as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do as I wish with my own money? Or are you jealous because I am generous?’” (Matthew 16:8-15)
When I read this, I am reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son when the older brother complained about his Father's celebration at the return of his wayward brother. His complaining gained him nothing. I'm also reminded of the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” At the end of the thief’s day, he received life’s greatest reward: eternal life. In Matthew’s story of the complaining vineyard workers, the vineyard owner in the story represents God. The workers represent—us. Yes, us! God has called each of us into service in His Kingdom. He is generous—really generous! Though God owes us nothing and you and I owe Him everything—He has promised us fullness of joy and eternal life.
Today, take a few moments to thank God for His incredible generosity. Despite our waywardness and complaining, He has opened His storehouse of grace and poured out every good thing to take care of our needs...and that's such very Good News!